Learning a new language as complex as Japanese, American Sign Language, or even Pirate can be as easy as connecting to the Internet, thanks to the Phoenix Public Library.
The city has two online data bases to help residents master a new language. Both programs offer English as a second language, Spanish, French, German, Japanese and Korean. The Rocket Languages data base also offers Arabic, Hindi and American Sign Language. The Mango Languages data base offers Polish, Greek, Italian and Pirate.
"Pirate has just been offered by the data base," said Rita Marko, spokeswoman for the city of Phoenix. "I guess they thought it was pretty fun, and we have to agree. With that service you can actually translate a phrase. If you wanted to go in and figure out how to say something in Pirate you can type in the English version of it and get it back in Pirate. It's going to be great for Talk Like a Pirate Day."
All the languages and lessons are free with a Phoenix Public Library Card.
"People are always interested in learning languages either for business or pleasure because they're traveling, or if they're new to the United States," Marko said. "Phoenix is a great nexus for immigration. We have lots of immigrants in this community from lots of different places. It makes sense for us to provide this resource for people to either learn English if they're coming from somewhere else or, if they're planning on using another language for business or travel, to help them learn that as well."
For years residents have been able to learn a new language through books at the library or CDs, but in the past year the library has added the online option to their collection as well.
Lenore Espinoza, 64, a technology teacher at Horizon Community Learning Center, said she had been visiting the library to borrow books to study when she found out she could do it all online.
"I'm involved in a nonprofit choir and, mainly, their songs are Eastern European," Espinoza said. "I've gotten to know some people who are from Eastern Europe and it'd be great, rather than having an interpreter all the time when we go places, to be able to speak to them. Goggle translate is good but it's not always accurate, so it could get you into trouble."
Espinoza is using the service online to learn Croatian, with the help of a tutor she met during her volunteer work. She said she also plans to brush up on her Spanish for future travels.
Marko said the benefits of learning a new language at this time are innumerable.
"We're in an international economy so for business it will benefit you," Marko said. "If you're traveling it will benefit you. Frankly, because we are such an international community it might help you talk to some of your neighbors."
To get started with the program visit "learning and research" at phoenixpubliclibrary.org and click on the "online classes" icon. Choose Mango Languages or Rocket Languages to set up your account. Both services are free with a library card.
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